For anyone who has spent any time in nature with a camera, they will likely have tried their hand as wildlife photographers or animal photographers for a day, if only taking photos of birds as they fly past.
If you’ve never spent any time looking at the work of other, famous animal photographers, then you might not understand the levels of creativity that go into creating the best wildlife photography.
Some of the more famous wildlife photographers deliver photos that not only give an insight into the life of the animals, but also are works of art in their own right.
For this reason, I think that professional wildlife photography can be an excellent resource to help us view landscapes and nature with a fresh eye.
In this article, you will find the best wildlife photographers, including many World famous wildlife photographers and famous bird photographers. You can find these wildlife photographers’ websites in the list below, and I would recommend that all of them are worth checking out to get a feel for how the top wildlife photographers make their art.
Famous Wildlife Photographers
1. Nick Brandt
Primarily known for his tinted black and white photographs, focusing on African wildlife, Nick Brandt creates truly exceptional work that is equally at home in a fine art display as it is in a wildlife photography exhibition.
His compositions really set up his photos, and like many black and white photographers, he uses light in a way that might not work if shooting in color, letting spots of light pick up textures in the animals.
Brandt has also ventured into more artistic wildlife photography than most, with his Inherit the Dust series showing photos of animals printed life-size, then placed on objects in urban areas where these animals once used to roam.
He has produced many coffee table books, which are an excellent investment if you are at all interested in the artistry of animal photography.
Frans Lanting is probably the most famous wildlife photographers of today, being named the wildlife photographer of the year way back in 1991, and more recently being given the lifetime achievement award from the same institution for his “exceptional contribution to nature photography and wildlife conservation”.
Lanting is largely responsible for the current high quality of animal photography, having personally had a massive impact with his decades of work, from his pioneering work in Madagascar, and with his photos of the Okavango Delta appearing in National Geographic credited with inspiring a wave of conservation interest in the area.
Perhaps Frans Lanting’s most famous photo of recent years is his shot of elephants at twilight shown below, although he has made such a vast contribution to wildlife photography, that it can tough to pick out any one image.
After formerly working as an art director for several advertising agencies, Marsel van Oosten took the leap into becoming a full-time professional wildlife and nature photographer and now runs photo tours, which you can join via his website.
He really gets composition, lighting, color and perspective, and this shows in his fantastic images, where he tries to remove the extraneous details that would otherwise distract the viewer.
He has won numerous photography awards and his photos are regularly used in National Geographic, which is a sure sign of a top wildlife photographer.
4. Joel Sartore
Joel Sartore is well-known by National Geographic readers and those further afield for his Photo Ark series, where he has currently photographed 11,700 species of animals against a plain background to build a photographic record of life on Earth.
He has been with National Geographic for 25 years, and gives regular talks on his work, alongside displaying some of his most popular photos.
Not only has he produced several books, he has also appeared on the TV show Rare, where he documented some of the most endangered species on Earth.
5. Brian Skerry
With a specialization in underwater photography, Brian Skerry is one of the best if you are interested in photos of marine life.
He has covered stories for National Geographic for over twenty years, including those on dolphin intelligence and the rise of fish farming. His work on sharks has been particularly popular among readers.
He has released 12 books, and is most recently known for his series on Whales, released both on Disney+ and in National Geographic. Not content with that, he has also won the wildlife photographer of the year award an impressive 11-times.
6. Marina Cano
Marina Cano is a Spanish wildlife photographer who has spent over 20 years photographing nature. She photographs in both color and black and white, with the latter images being particularly powerful, showing an excellent control of light and sharpness.
She has published four books of her work and has regularly has photos used on the cover of National Geographic. Cano takes a more intimate view of wildlife than you usually see from other photographers, capturing those small moments that really give the animals personality, and make them seem real for the viewer.
With an eye for the big, landscape style view of wildlife, Florian Schulz has taken many great animal photos. He is particularly well known for his drone shots of large congregations of animals from the Arctic to the Tropics.
Schulz seems to have really dedicated his life to these shots of the last wild places left on Earth, using visual storytelling to set a scene for the viewer. Like the other photographers featured here, his photos have been used in numerous publications around the world and have won prizes like the Environmental Photographer of the Year.
Recently he has been focusing on the Arctic, and his own brand of conservation photojournalism will surely help publicize the lives of animals there today.
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Best known for his conservation-style of nature photography and his TV work, Charlie Hamilton James uses modern technology to get some of the rarest creatures and moments on film.
He regularly uses photography traps, underwater rigs and nest cams to investigate the lifestyles of animals that we otherwise wouldn’t see and has a wide portfolio of wildlife photography with an unmatched breadth.
9. Ami Vitale
As a professional wlidlife photographer, Ami Vitale has traveled to over 100 countries in an attempt to “live the story” that she photographs.
Since 2009, when she shot a story on the release of the last white rhino, she has been increasingly focused on environmental issues and wildlife stories.
10. Paul Nicklen
As a marine biologist, it is no surprise that Paul Nicklen specializes in photos of the sea and the wildlife within it. As a photographer for over twenty years, Nicklen has had many photos published in National Geographic and elsewhere.
He lets viewers into an otherwise difficult to access underwater world through his wildlife documentary photography, winning tens of awards through his career, and also gaining respect for his conservation minded approach.
He regularly gives talks on conservation, using his photos as backdrop, and founded the non-profit SeaLegacy to fight for ocean conservation.
11. Ingo Arndt
Traveling the globe as a freelance wildlife photographer has allowed Ingo Arndt to build up an impressive portfolio of images where he portrays wild animals in their own habitats.
Like others in this list, he has won the wildlife photographer of the year, and has his images published in international magazines like National Geographic, with his picture stories regularly shown in museum exhibitions and other similar places.
You can see many of his projects on his website, and they are well worth checking out, not only for the magnificent images, but because you can also learn something about the craft of wildlife photography, and how a professional manages to get the images that he does.
12. Neil Aldridge
As with many other wildlife photographers, Neil Aldridge likes to use his work for raising awareness of conservation issues, with projects and stories focusing on different animal groups and situations.
One of his most successful projects has involved the rhino poaching crisis, with his photos being used to highlight the work of those trying to save these creatures.
Not only is he working in conservation, photography and filmmaking, he is also former international rower and now lectures in Marin and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University in the UK.
A Mexican conservationist, marine biologist and animal photographer, Cristina Mittermeier is a founder of the non-profit SeaLegacy to promote conservation of our oceans through storytelling.
She has won many awards and has been published in hundreds of magazines and books through her career, and is considered to be one of the most influential outdoor photographers of today.
In addition to her fabulous color wildlife work, she also produces many black and white fine art series of images, which are well worth checking out.
14. Suzi Esterhas
Suzi Esterhas is a wildlife photographer who is perhaps best known for her photos that capture the life of animals in their own habitats, as well as her photos of newborn and young animals.
She manages to develop a trust with these animals that allows her access to their lives in a way that few other animal photographers are able to accomplish.
With over twenty books in print and over one hundred magazine covers and stories, Esterhas is also both a popular speaker and leads photo tours, which are ideal for those new to wildlife photography, thanks to her outstanding teaching abilities.
As a photojournalist specializing in nature and wildlife photography, Christian Ziegler has a fine portfolio largely focusing on the tropics, which is not surprising for a trained tropical ecologist.
He is a National Geographic photographer who manages to get close up shots that others fail to achieve, through careful positioning of his camera and the use of flash, as well as by building platforms to get himself up into the canopy of rainforests.
From looking at his portfolio, it seems that he manages to get photos that are often those that others overlook.
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